Svolik in this masterly book lays down a theoretical framework defining authoritarian politics and rule. The book seeks to provide the answer as to what drives politics in a dictatorship, mentions its two fundamental conflicts (i.e of authoritarian power sharing and of authoritarian control) as well as its two fundamental problems (i.e the lack of any credible institution in enforcing agreement between the elites and the role violence plays in resolving conflicts).
While he quotes from the work of Barbara Geddes often who has done remarkable work on the theoretical construct of authoritarianism, he critiques her classification of regime types as not being either mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive.
The book also lays down in detail the role of political parties and institutions in facilitating the stability of authoritarian regimes as well as the different kinds of role that military plays in a dictatorship. He also explains why authoritarian regimes based on single party rule are likely to survive longer than normal authoritarian regimes as is seen in the case of China.
To prove his hypothesis, the author builds various models based on game theory (some of which was dense probability and so slightly difficult for me to understand).
At the outset a real heartfelt thanks to Ather Sahab for sending this book to me. It was a fabulous read, really enjoyed reading it. Though the book came out in 2009, the issues raised in the essays of the book remain relevant even today. Thank you again Sir.
My main takeaways;
1. The book is divided into four parts: (a) Image and depiction of the Muslims in the English Media (b) Transcending Boundaries, dealing with examples of how Muslims are reported in (some) foreign countries and also in parts of India. (c) Muslim and Urdu Journalism and (d) Popular images and stereotypes of Muslims.
2. Now for some super short summary of the main issue that the authors have highlighted in their essays. You want details, please read the book. You will enjoy it.
– In his essay Vinod Mehta argues that Muslim hopes of non Muslims promoting their cause is slightly far fetched. Muslim critics of media should understand that media is business and it has its own compulsions. He argues that fringe amongst the Muslims get more space because they make a better copy. The responsibility for changing this lies with the Muslims themselves.
– Rajni Kothari Sahab argues that the role of media has been negative and Muslims have been portrayed negatively.
– Kuldip Nayar argues that the national press is on the whole balanced and fair, and Muslim talk of majoritarianism in media is basically fear psychosis.
– Mrinal Pande argues that women and minorities are at a disadvantage because Hindu males control the media.
– Howard Brasted provides a glimpse of how the Australian media perceives Islam.
– Chandan Mitra argues that while the English media does not project a positive image of the Muslims but it is not really biased against the Muslims. He argues that the Urdu media is itself not interested in projecting a positive image of the Muslims.
– Siddharth Varadarajan argues that even though the Indian press do not support communal forces but they under the influence of the Congress party have made the Mullas the spokesmen of the Muslim community.
– KMA Munim pleads for a powerful Muslim press to spread the message of the glories of Islam amongst the youth, so that they can draw inspiration from it and gain self confidence.
– Sabya Sanchi’s provides us with a glimpse of the composite culture of Bengal and the difference in the trauma of partition that a Bengali faced from that of a North Indian. He also highlights the negative stereotypes of Muslims that was projected by the vernacular press of Bengal.
– Charles J Borges discusses the reporting on Goan Muslims by the Goan press as well as the Muslim welfare organisations working in Goa.
– Dagmar Markova writes about the experience that Muslims have in the Czech Republic as well as how they are perceived by the majority.
– Estelle Dryland argues that Muslim journalism is still living in the past and that is the reason why the media image of Muslims is negative.
– Susan B Maitra discusses the demonisation of the Muslims in the western press as an enemy of western civilisation.
– Robin Jaffrey laments on the condition of Urdu in India and on the minuscule circulation of Urdu newspapers.
– Ather Farouqui sahab in his essay laments on the failure of the Urdu press to raise substantive issues concerning Muslims, instead focusing on sectarian and emotive issues.
– Wahiduddin Khan argues that Urdu press is overtly dependent on international press for news coverage. The Urdu press also suffers from chronic protest mentality and is prone to externalising all the problems/shortcomings of Muslims.
– Arshad Amanalullah while highlighting the problems faced by the Urdu press expects that positive change may happen in the future under the forces of globalisation and privatisation.
– Moinuddin Jinabade examines the negative depiction of Muslims in Bollywood.
– John W Wood argues that both commercial and independent cinema have mostly ignored Muslim issues and concerns (barring meagre attempts by some in Bengali and Malayalam cinema).
Enjoyed reading the essays. Ather bhai, kitabein dene ki meharabaani jaari rakhiyega Huzoor. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 Bahut shukriya phir se!
At the outset, I must confess that I have always enjoyed reading Mariam Abou Zahab’s writings, though I might not agree with everything she writes. Here was a scholar who was not only an armchair theorist but also an activist. The book begins with an interesting anecdote with Mariam conversing with Abdullah Anas (of the book ‘To the Mountains: My life in Jihad from Algeria to Afghanistan’ fame) wherein Mariam tells him that she was in Afghanistan in the 1980s. When Anas asks her if she was working there as a journalist or an aid worker, she laughed. On further probing, he was quite surprised when she said, “Jihad”.
Born Marrie-Piere Walquemanne in France, she converted to Shia Islam and became Mariam Abou Zahab. She first took up arms in 1983, in support of Yaseer Arafat’s PLO, and then moved to Afghanistan where she was affectionately called Mariam Jan by Afghans. In one of her articles I had read, she narrates the number of marriage proposals she received from the Afghan commanders during her days in Afghanistan. 🙂 Despite her Jihadi background, it cannot be denied that she was a scholar and her scholarly writings on sectarianism, tribalism and Islamism in Pakistan have greatly enriched my understanding of these phenomenon in Pakistan. She died recently and am happy that a collection of some of her writings have now been compiled into a book.
My main takeaways from the book in brief;
1. Sectarianism: Mariam analyses the phenomenon of sectarianism in Pakistan from a sociological perspective (She enumerated this her in ‘Jhang paradigm – Jhang district can be classified as the home of radical Sunni organisations’). While many hold Zia’s Islamization policy and international factors like the Iranian revolution responsible for the rise of sectarianism in Pakistan (which is also true to a great extent), but as Mariam argues, we also need to look at the socio economic factors underlying this phenomenon. For her the roots of sectarianism lie in the social relations of domination and exclusion in South Punjab. While it is true that the State did support radical Sunni radical groups like SSP to further their domestic and foreign policy agenda, these groups could not have sustained themselves for as long as they did (do) without commanding the general support of the society in Jhang. The the support base to these radical organizations was (is) provided by the Madrasas in the area (which proliferated because the landlords of the area did not allow schools to be opened there, thereby making these Madrasas the only source of education for the poor), the fault line between the politically dominant Shia landlords and the Sunni urban middle class which mostly comprises of East Punjab refugees who resent the domination of the former (interestingly, it was only after reading Mariam’s writing did I realize that this dominant narrative, of only the Urdu speaking Karachi Muhajirs still maintaining their distinct identity from the Sindhis, while the East Pakistani refugees having fully integrated with Pakistani Punjabis, was not fully true), as well as the help provided to the sectarian groups by political parties and dominant groups in the area.
2. Islamism and Jihadism: While acknowledging the role that Pakistan Army and international actors like Saudi Arabia played in furthering Islamisation and Jihadism in Pakistan, she analyses Islamism as a social issue attempting to understand the motivations of the Jihadists. She adopts a biographical approach touching upon the life and itinerary of several Jihadis to answer this question. She has an interesting take on the rise of Taliban in FATA. She argues that Talibanization in FATA is a product of local dynamics, a fight between the ‘kashars’ – the young, poor and powerless of the tribes and ‘mashars’ – the dominant tribal elders. To challenge the latter, the former have adopted an alternative ideology, the ideology of Islamism. Having participated in the anti Soviet Jihad, many of these ‘kashars’ have now become fighters and heroes, wanting power for themselves for which they need to remove the dominant ruling group from power. Islamism then becomes the instrument through which the dominant tribal codes (which sustained the power of the ‘mashars’) is sought to be challenged.
The book also provides important insights into the recruitment drives of the LeT, which was of great interest to me as an Indian. Of course if you want to know more, then Dr. Christine Fair’s seminal book on LeT is the book you should read.
3. Merging of Jihadi and Sunni groups: The last part of the book deals with the convergence between the Sunni militants and the Jihadis, a process which she argues gained momentum after the crackdown on the Lal Masjid in 2007. Growing Talibanization has led to rising sectarianism in the Tribal Agencies and also in the settled areas of Pakistan. Large scale attacks on the Shias and other minorities have now become the norm in these areas, especially in Khurram agency where Shias constitute nearly 40 percent of the population. There is also a socio economic dimension to this conflict as Shias are relatively more prosperous in this area and this is resented by the Sunnis.
A book rich in detail, slightly dense but without doubt an excellent read. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
On 17 September 1948, the Indian army led by Gen Chaudhary marched into Hyderabad and the state of Hyderabad ruled by the Nizams since 1724 came to an end. We in our history books read this as Police Action undertaken by GOI. Much of the massacre and bloodshed that accompanied this Police Action has been erased from our history books though. This book is the memoir of the then Collector of Osmanabad, Muhammad Hyder, which he wrote during his incarceration in 1949 after Hyderabad was incorporated in the Indian Union. While much of the book concerns his personal fights for vindication against the charges brought against him as the officer of the Nizam, it also offers some important insights into the times, administration and personalities in the last days of the Nizam. Some interesting nuggets are;
The author devotes an entire chapter on his meeting with the famous (or infamous; your call) Syed Qasim Rizvi, the leader of the MIM and the Supremo of the Razakars. This chapter provides important insights into the thought process and the personality of Rizvi who had emerged as the most powerful leader in the last days of the state of Hyderabad. In fact the title of the book ‘October Coup’ draws from the huge demonstration that he organised against the administration gheraoing the house of the PM of Hyderabad protesting against the signing of the Standstill agreement with India. The team was to leave for Delhi that day; the plan was shelved and the agreement could only be signed later. He is said to have told the author that Muslims were better fit to rule than Hindus and one day he foresaw the Nizam’s flag flying over the Red Fort in Delhi. There is a reference in the book where he is said to have distributed large amounts of arms and ammunition to the Razakars with a view to initiate a Hindu massacre in Hyderabad on the news of the Indian Army closing in. It was only with great persuasion of the police chief of the state that he could be dissuaded and persuaded to retrieve the distributed weapons to his supporters.
The whole administration of the PM Laiq Ali had become ostrich like and delusional. They had great belief and faith that Hyderabad could indeed take on the Indian Army. This bravado was based on the larger than life personality of the commander Gen Edroos, the belief that all shortcomings of the ill trained and ill equipped army were exaggerated and could be immediately rectified (Laiq Ali in his conversations to the author is quoted as saying that the Hyderabad army was 50 times more powerful than it appeared) and that Nizams friends (ie. Pakistan) will intervene on their behalf. The author writes that all his attempts at raising the issue of Hyderabad’s weakness were politely scuttled and he was asked to keep quiet. He hilariously mentions army officers of Hyderabad posted in Osmanabad who used to start suffering from bouts of dysentery on the mere mention of a fight against the Indian Army.
The book also mentions the collapse of administration especially in the border areas of the Hyderabad with the constant harassment by the camps set up by the freedom fighters in the areas under the administrative control of GOI. These included both Congress and the Communists as well as anti social elements. There is a reference to a dacoit who is said to have out paced a running car with his sprints. It also mentions (though in passing) the prevailing latent communal tension in the state. No wonder there was large scale massacre of Muslims during the police action.
While I would not say that the book is exceptional, it would qualify as an easy and decent read.
PS: Found the references to some known names like Mr. Pimputkar ICS who succeeded the author as Collector of Osmanabad, who was my father’s Director in LBSNAA, Mussoorie, when he joined as an IAS probationer in 1967.
They say when life throws lemons at you, make lemonade. Well I guess that is what I am doing with the partial immobility that has been forced on to me by my operation and the long weekend. So in these four days would finish reading at least 3 books. So am not complaining!
Let me make an admission – I have been a great admirer of Kanshiram, in my eyes he is one of the greatest political leader that this country has produced. How many leaders in this country having no dynasty, financial wherewithal, coming from the lowest strata of society managed to single-handedly create a national political party, created a new political praxis and deepened democracy in this country? Not many. What we rather see now are some dynasts and men born with privilege vying to destroy established political parties! Good for the nation. May they succeed!!
Before the book the author. I have great regard for Shri Badri Narayan as an intellectual especially his understanding of subaltern and Dalit politics and mobilisation in India. As he is wont to do, he writes an excellent book. Some interesting points;
While Kanshiram was politically sensitive and aware, the incident that changed him completely was when an employee of Poona research lab where he was working was dismissed by the upper caste babus on his protesting the change in the dates of local holidays from Ambedkar Jayanti and Buddha Jayanti to Jayanti’s of Gokhale and Tilak. The incident had a deep impact on him and he wrote back to his family about his 8 vows which stated that he now cut all relations with his family as whole Bahujan Samaj was his family, will own no property and devote his whole life to the cause of Bahujan. He remained true to his vow to the end of his life.
While he was deeply influenced by Babasaheb, he also differed with him. He argued that while Ambedkar was an intellectual giant, he was a rustic person with average intellect and his politics was drawn based on ground realities. He said, ‘Ambedkar collected books, I collected people’. While Ambedkar worked towards the annihilation of caste (his most famous work is titled as such), Kanshiram believed that caste is the immutable reality of Indian life. It is a double edged sword and he sought to use it to invert the socio economic pyramid of Indian society by acquiring political power through the mobilisation of the Bahujan (85 per cent of population). This would make the society so far dominated by Manuvaad to an egalitarian one. So his call; ‘Jiski jitni sankhya bhari, uski utni hissedari’. He also differed with Babasaheb on the utility of Reservations. In his eyes reservation only served a limited purpose of acquiring bureaucratic representation, but to make the society egalitarian what was needed was the acquisition of political power, the master key. He also differed from Ambedkar for his politics did not subscribe to the moral content that reading Ambedkar works one so clearly notices. His was an amoral politics whose practice was based on pragmatism and furthering of his goals, that was to acquire political power for the Bahujan. He was opportunistic and he made no bones about it. Once I had seen his interview where (Shekhar Gupta it was if my memory serves me right) asked him if he was leftist or rightist and pat came his reply; an opportunist.
The book explains in some detail his struggle, formation of BAMSEF, DS4 and finally the BSP; its rise and gradual decline under Behn Mayawati. It also explains the contradiction within Bahujan politics, the disillusionment of the other non Jatav Dalits and OBCs from the BSP and the change in focus from Bahujan to Sarvjan in 2007; the social engineering of creating a coalition with the Brahmins leding to the BSP getting an absolute majority in UP assembly for the first time. Reading the newspapers then I still remember thinking that the party had come a long way from ‘Tilak Taraju aur Talwar, inko maaro joote char’ to ‘Brahmin shankh bajayega, haathi badhta jayega’. The disillusionment of the non Jatav Dalits and non Yadav OBCs was effectively exploited by the BJP in the recently concluded UP elections. Interestingly BJP borrowed much of Kanshiram ji’s methodology in drawing them within its fold by appropriating their cultural symbols (within the Hindutva fold) and reinforcing the community pride.
A wonderful read. I hope Behnji too reads it and understand why BSP as a party is facing an existential crisis today. Only complaint is that the book is more about the political journey of Manyawar. It throws little light on the person. But then his life was politics and there was nothing much else. Also apart from one book on Stooges, he virtually left little written documents either.
“Pakistan is international migraine” – Madeline Albright
It is a popular saying that while other countries have armies, in Pakistan the army has a country. Dr. Christine Fair, in this scholarly and well researched masterpiece of Pakistan’s defense literature brings out the strategic culture of the Pakistan army. Since the Pakistan army is the most organized and powerful institution in Pakistan, this strategic culture is the dominant strategic culture in Pakistan. The book organized into eleven chapters deals with every aspect of this strategic culture; its genesis and evolution, ideological underpinnings, instrumentalities of operationalization, its regional and international ramifications as well as the foreign policy rhetoric and choices pursued by the state.
Dr Fair begins by describing Pakistan as an insecure state which views India as ‘its eternal foe that not only seeks to dominate Pakistan but to destroy it’. The genesis and the evolution of this strategic culture can be traced to the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the subsequent events that followed. For Pakistan the process of partition was unfair with a ‘moth eaten’ Pakistan created in 1947. Territories like Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir were denied to Pakistan by Indian perfidy and British conspiracy. Constant references are made to the award of seven Muslim majority tehsils in Punjab by Radcliff (insistence of Mountbatten influenced by Nehru), especially of Gurdaspur which allowed India land route to Kashmir thereby facilitating its ‘occupation’.
Dr. Fair argues that Pakistan’s fear of India though couched in terms of security are not so. It is ideological. Pakistani army sees itself as the defender of Pakistan’s ideological frontier i.e. the two nation theory and its Islamic identity vis-à-vis ‘Hindu’ India. It believes that Pakistan is equal to India and seeks parity with the latter despite being much smaller geographically, demographically and economically. The conflict with India is defined in ideolological and civilizational terms making it incumbent upon the Pakistani army to resist what it perceives as Indian hegemony in the region and also India’s global rise. Interestingly, because of this victory and defeat at the hands of Indians is seen differently by the Pakistani army. Even after an outright defeat as in 1971, Pakistani army considered itself victorious because it survived to fight/challenge India another day. Defeat for the Pakistan army would thus be the day it accepts the status quo and Indian supremacy. It is this belief which propels Pakistan to take calculated risks for changing the status quo periodically but regularly. Apart from initiating three regular wars with India and the Kargil misadventure, Pakistan has constantly supported insurgencies in India (Naga, Mizo, Sikh) and waged proxy war in Kashmir. Interestingly while the American’s were training Pakistanis in guerrilla warfare to suppress and defeat insurgencies in the 1950’s, the then Pakistani defense literature was glorifying Vietnamese resistance and also ‘interested in understanding how Pakistan could wage one’. Operation Gibraltar in 1965 and Kargil intrusion in 1999 bear testimony to this thinking.
Pakistan has pursued a policy of strategic depth to limit Indian and Russian (also erstwhile Soviet) influence in Afghanistan. Unlike the generally held view that the concept of strategic depth was enunciated by General Aslam Beg, Dr. Fair posits that this idea of strategic depth in Afghanistan is a colonial legacy which was carried forward by the successor state of Pakistan, even though it did not possess the resources of the Raj. To facilitate covert operations against the Doud government of Afghanistan, training camps were established by Bhutto to train Afghan Mujahedeen as early as 1973. This also explodes another oft repeated myth by the Pakistanis that the Mujahedeen were created by the US to further its own geo-political interests in Afghanistan.
The instruments used by Pakistan to seek strategic parity with India and to resist its rise has been to seek alliances and court international benefactors like United States, China and Saudi Arabia, nurture non-state actors and use terror as an instrument of state policy. Though the USA has been the largest largess provider for the Pakistani state, in Pakistani defense literature USA is portrayed as a perfidious ally. Pakistan constantly harps on the USA failure to overtly support Pakistan despite being an ally in the 1965 and the 1971 war with India, the sanctions imposed under Pressler Amendments (incidentally the passing of this amendment was hailed as a victory for Pakistani diplomacy) and turning its back on Pakistan after Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. No reference however is made of the differing geo-political objectives of the two nations. While Pakistan purportedly became an ally of the US to challenge communism, its goals remained purely India centric. Failure to get active US support in its conflicts with India has been a constant sore point with the Pakistanis. In contrast to the USA, China is projected as an all weather friend. Chinese failures to support Pakistan’s objectives and goals are generally glossed over.
With the overt nuclearization of the subcontinent, Pakistan has pursued a policy of Jihad under the nuclear umbrella against its adversaries. It has supported terrorism against India from its soil and sought to undermine US strategic interests in the region. The possession on nuclear weapons has facilitated nuclear risk taking by Pakistan. By keeping its nuclear doctrine ambiguous and not defining its nuclear threshold it has achieved its twin objectives of deterring India from escalating the conflict as well as drawn international actors like the USA into limiting the conflict. It also rightly believes that being a nuclear power restrains USA from completely abandoning Pakistan.
The question then remains is can the strategic culture of the Pakistani army be changed? Scholars have argued that with the strengthening of democratic institutions in Pakistan, this narrative would be challenged. Some (Ahmed Rashid, Raphel) have argued that a grand bargain with India through the resolution of the Kashmir dispute (to Pakistan’s satisfaction) may facilitate such a change. Dr Fair appears to take a pessimistic view and does not foresee any change happening in the near or distant future. Dismissing the grand bargain theory she describes Pakistan as a ‘purely greedy state’ which is defined by Charles Glaser as a state ‘fundamentally unsatisfied with the status quo, desiring additional territory even when it is not desired for security.’ Any appeasement of this ‘greedy state’ might aggravate the problem rather than solving it. She further argues that even if Pakistan undergoes a permanent democratic transition it does not obviously follow that ‘civilians will abandon the persistent revisionism with respect to India. This is because of the deep presence of army’s strategic culture, based on the ideology of Islam and two nation theory, within Pakistan’s civil society, political culture and bureaucracies’. A case in point is the Abbotabad attack by USA, which provided the civilians an opportunity to assert some control over the army, instead they chose to rally around the latter. Some scholars argue that the India centric doctrine of the Pakistani army has now changed and it has acknowledged internal threats as the main challenge. While Pakistani army may at times acknowledge internal threats but it successfully ‘externalizes’ those threats to the enemies (India) of Pakistan, who are held responsible for creating and aggravating these threats. This in turn brings the conventional focus back to India for the army and also buttresses its role as the premium institution in the country which can manage these threats.
One interesting and novel fact brought out by Dr. Fair is the changing recruitment pattern of the army. Her research shows that in 1972 the army officers came from only few districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), but by 2005 practically all districts of Pakistan were producing officers. Her field work suggests that many of these officers do not share the ‘core values’ of the Punjabi dominated strategic culture of the Pakistani army with the same intensity. How this changes the nature of the discourse of this strategic culture in future remains to be seen.
The book provides important policy prescriptions for both India and United States. She argues that USA should stop ‘attempting to transform the Pakistani army or Pakistan for that matter. It is unlikely that the United States can offer Pakistan any incentive that would be so valuable to Pakistan and its security interests that the army would abandon the varied tools it has developed to manage its security competition with India, much less consider a durable rapprochement.’ The realities for India are starker. ‘The Pakistan army will continue to weaken India by any means possible, even though such means are inherently risky. In the army’s eye, any other course will spell true defeat.’ It is time that the Indian policy planners stop being wooly eyed about Pakistan and face facts.
This book is a must read for all policy planners in India and the United States. This would help them shed many of their illusions and accept realities howsoever uncomfortable.